Filibuster from "Democracy Means Fair Employment Practices" Pamphlet (image via Tobias Higbie)

Instead of playing the part of a news organization that informs the American public, the “fact checkers” at the AP have sadly decided to label as “facts” things that aren’t true about what Congress can or cannot do.  This fact check about the Republican presidential candidates’ claims about repealing “Obamacare” is simply deeply and profoundly inaccurate.

Most of the AP’s “facts” rely on the totally false claim that it takes 60 votes in the Senate to pass a law. From the AP:

[Herman] Cain recognizes that for the law to be repealed, Congress must act. But presidents don’t set the congressional calendar, and even if Republicans can secure a 60-vote majority that gives them control of the Senate, the train of legislation seldom runs on schedule.

And in reference to Romney’s promise to use reconciliation to repeal the law the AP wrote this comically wrong “fact”

THE FACTS: This is a strategy to undermine the law by starving it of money. Its only real chance is if Republicans win congressional majorities as well as the presidency or at the very least a rash of improbable Democratic defections in Congress.

Although not a single-day project, it represents one threat to Obama’s law, if one with political risk and tough odds. Some core parts of the law are not dependent on annual budgeting.

Going beyond the budget process to repeal the law in full is an even steeper climb. It would require a larger Republican congressional majority to move forward and to clinch 60 votes in the Senate – all this as the law increasingly takes root in the nation’s medical and insurance system.

The idea that it actually takes 60 vote to pass a bill in the Senate is one of the most insidious myths in American politics. The 60 vote threshold is a totally made up restriction and can be eliminated in 10 minutes by a simple majority of senators if they want to.

While the current Senate rules do require 60 votes to end debate to prevent a filibuster, there is nothing magical or sacrosanct about the rules. At the beginning of new Congress a simple majority of senators could adopt new rules. Also at any point during the legislative session a simple majority of senators can decide to adopt a new interpretation of the Senate’s rules, this new interpretation could prevent a filibuster from stopping a majority from voting on a bill. It is critical to remember that the only people with the authority to say what the Senate rules do and do not allow is a majority of senators.

It is a lie on the part of the AP to imply it would take 60 voters to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If the GOP wins a small majority in the Senate (between 50-59 seats) and they are fully determined to get rid of the law, they have the ability to quickly change the Senate rules so they can pass the repeal with only a simple majority.

There may be reasons the GOP makes the decision that passing the repeal is not worth permanently changing the Senate rules, but there is nothing actually stopping them. It is a choice they have the power to make, they don’t need 60 votes.

In addition, the article seems to have no understanding how reconciliation works. To begin with, if a simple majority is willing to push the envelope with reconciliation they can technically repeal the whole law with it. Even without bending the rules reconciliation has nothing to do with “annual budgeting” as the article implies. The Byrd Rule says reconciliation should only be used on things that affect spending and revenue but there is no restriction regarding annual budgeting verse mandatory spending.

Instead of the media spreading myths about how powerless our politicians are to change anything, it should tell the American people what they actually could do if they wanted to. The American people deserve to know the truth that our politicians can actually fulfill many of their promises and that they are simply choosing not to. The media role should not be to help the powerful hide behind their false excuses. Let’s not treat made up procedure rules as serious impediments to the people who have the power to change any time they want.